The drive to refuge headquarters on the low-tide beach had been a pleasant one. After making a turn into the dunes on our entrance “road” into headquarters, I paused at the crest to enjoy the view. The vast Atlantic stretched to the Eastern horizon. Westward lay Back Bay Wildlife Refuge’s open water, coves and marsh islands overflowing with swan, Canada geese, ducks and snow geese by the thousands. North and south was the great Outer Banks, which rejoined the mainland again just north of the refuge.
Gale force winds are common in coastal areas, so when the winds picked up that afternoon, and continued all night, I didn’t think it all that much out of the ordinary. Just another northeaster, even if it was a strong one.
Whenever Back Bay froze over, heavy winds or a thaw usually broke up the ice within a week or two. This freeze, however, turned out to be more tenacious. It had lasted almost a month, and waterfowl were dying of starvation in substantial numbers.